Seeking Great Ideas

Was The Thinker thinking about the effects of free trade or wondering how to enrich his next project with amazing storytelling and killer graphics? Finding inspiration for our creations can be difficult at times; most of us have good days and bad ones. So how is it that some always seem to have a concept coming from somewhere, as if they have a personal muse? This article focuses on the places where you can discover yours.

Study Television

Will the hero get the girl and defeat his nemesis? Who knows? If you’re like most people, when a series of commercials interrupts your TV show, it seems like an opportune moment to visit the kitchen or the bathroom. If you have a digital video recorder (DVR), you’ll probably be hitting the skip button. If you’re in search of a great idea, you’ll want to re-examine this habit.

TV commercials are an excellent source of inspiration, especially the ones during prime time. Commercials have to grab the viewer’s attention and tell a clear and concise story, while trying to get them to do something. Does that sound like your latest project? The wonderful thing about TV spots is that all of this will usually occur in 30 seconds. With spots being so short, you can get through a ton of them in no time. There is so much information crammed into such a short time frame, you can find inspiration in minutes. If you need to get to or through spots fast, a DVR can be extremely helpful (see sidebar). Try recording a night of television and skipping the shows instead of the commercials.

Regardless of whether you work on commercials or not, there’s something for you buried in these short stories. With television’s vast amount of advertising, you should be able to find great ideas for any project.


Even if you don’t do print (and never will, because you’re a die-hard video guru), this is still worth a look. You’ll find great text layout and composition ideas in magazines, mailers, pamphlets and billboards. As a matter of fact, there are magazines and books dedicated just to showing off examples of amazing print work. Be sure not to write this medium off; my best text layout ideas have always come from print sources.

The next time you find yourself waiting to get your hair cut, be sure to do more than just read the magazines; take time to study how the magazine is laid out. Plus, it’s easy to rip out an ad or take a pamphlet home to store it away for later use. Learn from the masters of that medium, and apply the concepts you like into your own craft.

Remember that print goes far beyond magazines, posters and brochures. Print is everywhere, including your local grocery store. Someone once asked me if an idea for a title layout came from a can of soup, which it didn’t, but it did make me think about finding ideas. No matter where you are, you should always be looking for inspiration, even if it’s while completing a honey-do list.

The Web

It seems like you can find everything on the web these days – how about inspiration? Just like print, the web has lots of layout ideas. As a bonus, some of the layouts will include animated graphics. Next time you land on a Flash page with an intro, don’t skip it. See what creative blends of graphics await you.

As the web grows bigger by the day, it can become frustrating to sift through it to find only an occasional design gem. Check out‘s video section. Amongst the vast array of content, you will find many contest-winning videos. There’s a reason why these videos rose to the top; figure out why by carefully watching their content. Who knew sharpening your skills and getting ideas could be so much fun?

Direct Mail

If you don’t mind the possibility of getting on multiple mailing lists, direct mail can be yet another source of seeing concepts you would never have seen otherwise. Often, you can sign up to receive a free brochure and DVD. How about that – inspiration delivered to your own mailbox!

In a way, e-mails can be of inspirational help as well. Next time you get a great spot e-mailed to you, don’t just laugh and then delete it. Study it. Why did it make you smile? How did they utilize their pacing, music, camera angles, etc.? Good ideas can come from anywhere; you just need to learn to recognize them.

In the Shower or with Others

We’ve covered some great sources for inspiration, but what about those gems that randomly pop into your head? Where and when does that usually occur? Does it happen while you’re taking a shower, enjoying the outdoors or right before you go to bed? Once you have figured out the things that trigger your creative spark, it will be easier for you to home in on a great idea.

Sometimes relying on yourself for a great idea is not enough. Ad agencies will get a group of employees together to discuss ideas for a project. It’s amazing to see what ideas trigger others. All of the sudden, you can find yourself in a virtual flurry of great ideas. Unfortunately, many in this field find themselves working on projects on their own. Luckily, Videomaker has created the Videomaker Lounge. It’s a great place to network with your peers and develop relationships that can help you on multiple projects. Find a source you can trust, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you’re stuck. Relying on others can be a quick way to get the creative ball rolling. With Videomaker‘s ever-growing community, be sure to spend some time in the forums asking questions and posting your latest work. Feedback from industry insiders can never hurt.

Whether your inspiration comes to you while watching TV spots, surfing the web or right before you go to bed, be sure to have a notebook handy to jot down your ideas. If you don’t, they may fade from your memory, leaving you looking like Le Penseur. I personally keep a notebook next to my bed, because a lot of my ideas come to me as I fall asleep.


In the end, regardless of where your inspiration comes from, keep in mind that there is a big difference between plagiarism and inspiration. So the next time you find yourself looking at a graphic medium, be sure to look deeper into what you’re seeing and find your muse.

Stephen Smith is an award-winning producer and editor for Lone Peak Productions.

Side Bar: DVR (Digital Video Recorder)

If there is not enough time in your day, then the DVR is the device for you. A DVR allows you to do far more than just record your favorite TV shows. It’s never been easier to record a bunch of prime-time television and then fast-forward through the show to watch only the ads. As much as that sounds like the TV advertisers paid me to write that, it’s a great way to quickly find some useful ideas. If you’re only looking for inspiration for your graphics, be sure to check out show opens; they can be crammed full of amazing images. Thanks to the DVR, getting to them has never been easier.

Also, when you’re watching a show in real time, you now have the option to rewind back to whatever caught your eye and record it for later inspection. Instead of straining your brain to remember what you liked, you can now have it close at hand.

If you don’t have a DVR already, this article should be your excuse to get one. Besides, depending on your situation, you may even be able to write it off on your taxes as a business expense. In the meantime, stop skipping those pesky ads and start benefiting from them.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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